It is frequently observed that the Palestinians are burdened by corrupt and obtuse leaders. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is in the ninth year of a four-year term. But consider what the Palestinian people, not simply their leaders, think about their predicament.


President Obama shakes hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office of the White House on March 17. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

The Washington Institute is out with a new poll of 1,200 adult Palestinians (interviewed face-to-face) showing that “a clear majority (60% overall, including 55% in the West Bank and 68% in Gaza) say that the five-year goal ‘should be to work toward reclaiming all of historic Palestine, from the river to the sea.’ ” In other words, they aim to wipe Israel off the map:

For example, just one-third said that a two-state solution “should be the end of the conflict.” Nearly two-thirds said “resistance should continue until all of historic Palestine is liberated.” And only a third said that “it might be necessary to give up some of our claims so that our people and our children can have a better life.["]

Similarly, only a third said that a two-state solution would be their leadership’s final goal. Instead, almost two-thirds said it would be “part of a ‘program of stages,’ to liberate all of historic Palestine later.” This remarkable finding helps explain how a plurality or more of Palestinians can support President Mahmoud Abbas and reject a two-state solution at the same time.

The only “good” news is that a strong majority of Palestinians don’t favor violence. Instead, they prefer “demonstrations, strikes, marches, mass refusals to cooperate with Israel, and the like.” The other positive sign is that Hamas is not popular. (“Most striking, and contrary to common misperception, Hamas is not gaining politically from the kidnapping [of three Israeli teens]. Asked who should be the president of Palestine in the next two years, a solid plurality in both the West Bank and Gaza named Abbas (30%) or other Fatah-affiliated leaders: Marwan Barghouti (12%), Muhammad Dahlan (10%), Rami Hamdallah (6%), Mustafa Barghouti (4%), Salam Fayyad (2%), or Mahmoud al-Aloul (1%). These findings strongly suggest that the Palestinian public as a whole has little or no desire to carry out any threats to ‘dissolve’ the Palestinian Authority.”)

Despite their desire to eradicate the Jewish state, the Palestinians expect Israel to give them jobs. (Talk about chutzpah.) Among those surveyed, 80 percent want jobs in Israel and “despite narrow majority support for boycotting Israel, a larger majority said they would also like Israeli firms to offer more jobs inside the West Bank and Gaza. Nearly half said they would take such a position if available.”

All of this suggests there is no upside for a Palestinian leader to agree to a two-state solution. More to the point, it suggests that the Palestinian people aren’t ready to live in peace with their neighbors.

I ran across a smart analysis of the situation:

Achieving peace in the Holy Land is not just a matter of the shape of a border. As we work on the details of peace, we must look to the heart of the matter, which is the need for a viable Palestinian democracy. Peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, who tolerate and profit from corruption and maintain their ties to terrorist groups. These are the methods of the old elites, who time and again had put their own self-interest above the interest of the people they claim to serve. The long-suffering Palestinian people deserve better. They deserve true leaders, capable of creating and governing a Palestinian state.

Even after the setbacks and frustrations of recent months, goodwill and hard effort can bring about a Palestinian state and a secure Israel. Those who would lead a new Palestine should adopt peaceful means to achieve the rights of their people and create the reformed institutions of a stable democracy.

That was President George W. Bush — in 2003. It is fair to say we are no closer to peace (maybe farther away considering the unity government) than we were 11 years ago. Bush was speaking then about Yasser Arafat, but there’s no one on the scene now (with the possible exception of the ousted former prime minister Fayyad) to promote real Palestinian democracy. And there’s no Palestinian consensus in favor of peace. Bush was right — we’re not going to have peace until that changes. To conduct a “peace process” at this point is a farce; to blame Israel for its failure is perverse. But that hasn’t stopped the Obama/Hillary Clinton/John Kerry foreign policy team. Could it be that they have no idea whom they are dealing with?

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.